Architecting serendipity – article from Wired

What exactly is a serendipity architect? I get asked this a lot, and my answer is two-fold depending on how the question is being asked.

First the title is a litmus test for who I’d like to work with. If people look at me sceptically when they ask, then it’s a fairly safe bet that working with that person is going to be difficult (like the time one executive introduced me to an audience as a “self described serendipity architect.”).  On the other hand, the people that I like to work with smile when they mention the title, or are simply curious.

Secondly it describes a lot of what I do – keeping abreast of a lot of fast moving areas, discussing interesting developments with people that know these areas well, pulling insights from the mix and then working with leadership teams to understand how they can take advantage of the opportunity.  One of the comments I hear during the last phase of this process goes along the lines of “wasn’t it lucky that we…”   My response is that this isn’t luck.  It’s designed serendipity.

If you want a longer read about how serendipity happens in an online world, Wired magazine published an extract from the book “Smarter Than You Think.”  The last paragraph of the extract sums it up nicely:

The birth of Ushahidi is a perfect example of the power of public thinking and multiples. Okolloh could have simply wandered around wishing such a tool existed. Kobia could have wandered around wishing he could use his skills to help Kenya. But because Okolloh was thinking out loud, and because she had an audience of like-minded people, serendipity happened.

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